One of the software trends I’ve hated the most of the past decade or so is nagging. From the standpoint of the user, popping up a message to suggest or demand the user do something is the last resort. In my mind, it’s a flagrant violation of the law of least astonishment… basically, don’t do things that surprise the user. Popping stuff on screen is at odds with that… it distracts the user from what he or she is doing… which is, basically, the entire point of having a computer. Getting whatever the user wants to do done.
I usually associate nagging with commercial software. I remember the first time I started Window XP: wihin a minute of first logging in, I got popups reminding me to register Windows… along with taking a tour of windows, and eliminating unused icons from my desktop (WTF… will you give me a second to go see what is actually on the friggin desktop before suggesting I blow it away?). Recently, I had to go in and decrapify my father-in-law’s Dell that had come installed with tons of foistware that was nagging him about buying it, installing updates, and the like.
I usually expect open source software to not make these sorts of stupid decisions. However, today I ran into the worst case of nagging I have seen in quite a while thanks to Firefox. I left Ubuntu udate a bunch of software this morning, including Firefox.. and here’s what showed up at the top of the browser window:
How stupid is it to have an informational message with a close button on it, which closes the message for the grand total of a few seconds? If it’s so important to constantly nag me to restart the browser, then don’t put the button there!
Also notice that the message pushes the entire page down… so if it decides to pop up just as I click a link, the stupid message will push a different link under my pointer. That’s what I call freakin’ astonishing!